After running successfully for over 20 years at Caux, Switzerland, the Caux Scholars Program was held in India for the second time in Dec 2015 - Jan 2016.

Click here to download report of CSP-AP 2015-16

Some of the testimonials of the Scholars'

In 2016 the second Caux Scholars class graduated from the program in India. They have written letters back to the Caux Scholars community. They describe what they took away from the program and how they are applying what they learned in their lives now. We share their letters with you.

Abhidha Niphade

It is my immense pleasure to share this letter as the youngest CSP-AP alumni. I am Abhidha Niphade from India, a law student and founder of Being Lawgical, a nonprofit organization committed to the cause of legal literacy and awareness. I was recently selected to be a Global Youth Ambassador at 'A World At School', United Nations. I want to be a Human Rights Lawyer.

Upon recalling the days that I spent at CSP-AP, I realized that the experience has transformed me in a major way. I learned about conflict resolution, peace building but much more beyond it. From the very day I received news about my selection to CSP-AP, I was excited about participating in it. I was certain that this was going to be a life-changing opportunity for me. When I first reach Asia Plateau (AP), I was left spell bound by the beauty of the place and knew there was magic to happen during the three weeks of my stay there. At CSP, I learned many concepts which were new to me. The sessions on 'inner governance' and 'quiet time' gave me insights which I had never had before. I felt like I was opening up to my thoughts gradually and was experiencing freedom from burdens of all kind.
 
We were fourteen participants from ten different countries. Though we belonged to different lands and came to AP with different life stories, we developed a strong and eternal bond of friendship. It was diversity that united us. As I look back at my CSP-AP days, I feel grateful for the knowledge sharing and support of all the other scholars from across the world. The way they are striving in their respective fields to serve their community motivates me to a great extent.
 
Dr. Ashok and Dr. Florina who facilitated the program became like friends, philosophers and guides to all of us. Their mere presence was encouraging. From among all the sessions, the most memorable for me were 'simulation' and 'field visits' to nearby villages in the Satara district. During simulation, I chose to essay the role of an old respected lady in a conflict prone community. It was quite challenging for me as I was totally immersed into character and got the opportunity to learn about how people react and respond during conflict. It felt like being in an actual conflict zone. The field visits helped me understand why it is essential to work at the grassroots level. I totally believe in what Mahatma Gandhi said about the development of a country, that it begins from villages. The visit to Grampari, AP's village and environmental development initiative was an eye-opener to kind of innovations that have been championed at the grassroots in India. The school hand-washing campaign that Grampari runs inspired me to emulate the same at a school for underprivileged children. These small innovations which emerge from the community can be very impactful in a country like India.
 
CSP-AP provided us with the incredible opportunity to interact with Rajmohan Gandhi, a well-known Indian activist and scholar. Meeting him was a dream come true for me. Participation in the trauma healing and peace circle sessions helped each one of us to open up and share stories that had left a deep impression on our lives. For me, CSP was not merely a conference; it was an experience that taught me to listen to my inner voice and help calm my thoughts. It is a platform where one can learn and grow with a healthy sharing of ideas. I have acquired useful resources in conflict resolution and peace building to be able to help my community in the future. Not only did I learn to analyze conflicts, I was also equipped with skills to understand the factors responsible for conflict and approaches effective in resolving them. The exchange of ideas with other scholars has inspired me to work for a peaceful society, expand access to quality information and engage in advocacy. With the CSP-AP experience behind me and with the support of a vast pool of scholars networked through the Caux community, I now, feel empowered to put my best foot forward in my role as a young community leader of India.  
 

Asmaa SleemMy name is Asmaa Sleem and I am a seeker of change and hope. Living in my part of the world - in Egypt - is becoming heavy burden on people's shoulders, especially on the youth. In the past few years after the revolution, divisions and mistrust have multiplied and acceptance towards diversity in views has been low. Each day is a new battle for the people of my country. They spend their time fighting to earn their living, fighting against corruption and lack of transparency, fighting their helplessness in the time of politicized dreams and actions motivated by fears, fighting their own emotions on witnessing the suffering of people around them and fighting for their right to live in peace and dignity. It is the everydayness of life in Egypt and the surrounding manners that influence us and we cannot control. Nevertheless people are still hoping to find peace and live it.

I believe that the world needs peace, love, knowledge, moral integrity and togetherness. I was excited to apply for the Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) when I first learned about it. The year was 2015 and I had just quit my job because I wanted to have some time for myself in the midst of rushing for professional pursuits. I was lucky to start studying a degree in social sciences and liberal arts. I realized that if I take some time off, it should be spent in the purpose of knowledge and exploration. However, to be able to learn, one first needs to unlearn and this is what I hoped to achieve at CSP-AP. CSP's mix of training in conflict transformation and sustainable development appealed to me and triggered my enthusiasm for the program. It was also relevant to my experience in development, education, youth empowerment and my life's quest for peace. I wanted to discover myself by participating in this program. I did face some obstacles for I was not sure if I would be able to afford the program, but when the process began, I found unexpected collaboration and kind support. I was selected, supported and appreciated. What a memorable journey it has been!
 
For me, CSP turned out to be an exploratory journey into understanding one self and one's surroundings. It is the story of strangers whose paths were destined to meet for a higher cause and for their shared identity as humans. I was amazed by the intensity of interactions among scholars who were a mini representation of the diversity of the globe. The thought-provoking sessions, interactive participants and energetic organizers led me to a great deal of mind and heart reflection. It became all about emotional, spiritual, physical, intellectual and collective transformation that led us to perceive things quite differently than what we were used to.  It started from the "I" and goes viral around, and here I recall what Mahatma Gandhi said: "As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world - that is the myth of the atomic age - as in being able to remake ourselves." 
 
CSP was a resilient attempt that helped me unlock deeper layers of myself and bring connectedness to the voice that was not heard clearly before, my inner voice. Presently I am trying to integrate my learning at CSP-AP with my academic, professional and personal life as also with the voluntary activities that I undertake. I am lucky to be surrounded by peace makers with whom I am involved in different peace initiatives in Egypt. We aim to promote a culture of peace through education. I am pursuing my dream idea of working on (Beit Al-Salam) which means 'the House of Peace' which will serve as a space to embody the spirit of peace and analyze root causes of conflicts in communities. During my time at CSP-AP, I felt like I was a member of a 'house of peace' and to turn my dream into reality.
 
As an experience, CSP-AP has been one of the most valuable ones with effective and engaging times spent learning about peace building, conflict transformation, conflict analysis, restorative justice, sustainable development. I have begun to question, probe and perceive matters differently. I don't think CSP will ever end. It will continue to rekindle through people who were part of it and those who will have the chance to join it in the future. Learning, love, respect, laughter, tears, fun, trust can sum up the good, challenging and mad moments we all experienced through the three weeks. It was and it will be for me a tender call to listen to our inner voice. To find strengths to face challenges, to revisit unquestionable truths, to unlearn our prejudice, to renew our commitment to live peacefully to ourselves and to the universe, to celebrate our existence and to believe in the shared power of our unlimited abilities to change the world ... CSP-AP is this and so much more!

 

Pradip Pariyar

I am Pradip Pariyar from Nepal. It is my great pleasure to share this letter as one of the 2015/16 "CSP-AP alumni. I am currently working as the founder chairperson of Nepal Policy Center which is a youth led think tank based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Recently, I was appointed by Nepal government's Ministry of Youth and Sports as a High Level Taskforce Member to review "National Youth Policy and Build Youth Vision 2025". My aspiration and vision is to become a Prime Minister of Nepal.

My former colleague and friend told me about Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau and strongly recommended it. He told me: "your aspirations are high and you need to learn to deal with different people. If you get the chance to go to the CSP-AP course, you will benefit from different practical tools like negotiation and conflict analysis." I realized the importance of the course and I applied. 
 
The program was a benchmark for my professional and personal growth. My generation has gone through ten years of civil war in Nepal. We witnessed so much conflict and violence. We had always confused the difference between the two. At CSP-AP, I got the chance to go through the practical stages of conflict and violence. The best part of the course was using a lot of story sharing and practical exercises that helped to understand the issues easily. I had experienced working with child soldiers and youth who are involved in direct conflict. I couldn't think from their perspective but this course allowed me to understand their viewpoint, which was a big opportunity for me. We usually preach but it's very difficult to put it into practice in our own life. This course helped me to stand in other people's shoes and realize the pain and difficulties of conflicting parties and their situations.
 
I was very impacted by the program's focus on listening to your own inner voice. I feel that we don't do this enough. We are often judgmental about other people and their situations. When I started to listen to my inner voice, it helped me to think deeply about issues rather than judging them. This has become part of my personal transformation, which is also Initiatives of Change's (IofC) vision.
 
Initiatives of Change CSP-AP was a great platform for learning. As a space, I found Asia Plateau offering a lot of positive vibes. Besides the academic learning, we developed great friendships among CSP participants, facilitators and organizers. Thus, we are also able to continuously support each other and share successes and failures with one other.  In my opinion, that means this program's achievements are more than the program goal. I would humbly request readers that "if you care about creating a sustainable peaceful world, invest in young people--invest in CSP." I can guarantee that result will impact the next generations."

 

Johanna SellMy name is Johanna Sell. I am from Germany and living in Nepal. Load shedding time in Nepal. That means there is an intentional power shut down for a scheduled time as the electricity supply is not sufficient to match the demand. So, I am sitting in my room with only a candle to give me light. While listening to the rain outside, I am wondering how to start this testimonial. 
 
Why did I decide to participate in the Caux Scholars Program (CSP) at Asia Plateau? Whether consciously, or unconsciously, we are constantly making decisions that shape our identity. This time I made a decision to travel to India to experience an intensive program of intercultural sharing, learning theoretical and practical approaches to conflict transformation, peace building and sustainable development, as well as reflecting upon myself and connecting to my inner voice. 
 
Connecting to my inner voice was my primary motivation to participate in CSP. I graduated in Peace and Conflict Studies, so I am familiar with the theoretical field. I am also a trained mediator and have worked in multi-track mediation processes in the Western Balkans for several years. The question I constantly pose to myself, however, is, whether I am actually practicing what I preach. How do you gain credibility as a peacebuilder when you have not established peace within yourself and have not personally mastered the art of nonviolent conflict transformation?
 
When I read about the vision and mission of Initiatives of Change (IofC), I got very excited. I have often found myself surrounded by people who believe working on personal change and using quietness for self-reflection and inspiration was something only for tree huggers or (pseudo-) spiritual people. But, at IofC, personal transformation and quiet time are highly valued by a community of people from diverse professional backgrounds who came to the conclusion that we are personally responsible for bringing peace to the world and we need to start with ourselves. I wanted to become part of this and find guidance on my journey of personal transformation.
 
CSP at Asia Plateau (AP) was a great space for learning. Besides learning theories of conflict transformation and discussions on the same, we were equipped with tools for peace building and sustainable development which we practiced implementing in various field visits and simulations. During a full day simulation, we further practiced these skills to discover our own limitations and boundaries as peacebuilders. More than that, the conversations with scholars, trainers (Dr. Ashok and Dr. Florina), and guest speakers from diverse national and professional backgrounds were very enriching.
 
Through different activities the trainers ensured that in addition to an intellectual learning process, an emotional learning process was also involved. When we were asked to be caregivers and listen to each other's personal traumatic experiences, I finally understood the meaning and power of compassion. In the West, people talk frequently about compassion but, I did not understand what exactly it meant. When we were sharing the pain and the emotions of our fellows at AP, I understood a few things about compassion and how it is important for building peace.
 
Compassion is a reminder of our interconnectedness. It means to see the other with all their flaws and accept them with openness and without judgement. Compassion allows us to connect and to establish trusted relationships, relationships we need to build peace within ourselves and within our society. We need to find compassion in ourselves. We need to connect to our heart and listen to our inner voice which will help us bring out the best in ourselves. I believe that my inner voice will help me explore my own web of needs, beliefs, and emotions that inform my decisions and interaction with others. This understanding of my self - linked with the skill of compassion - will allow me to not only intellectually, but, emotionally appreciate what is driving others.
 
At AP, I was able to listen to many personal stories about how listening to the inner voice has positively changed those people's lives by providing them direction, correction and inspiration. This was truly inspiring and helped me continue my own journey towards inner peace. I joyfully embarked on this journey knowing that compassion is just the first step, that other steps will follow, and that nobody ever arrives.
 
As the rains outside continue to fall and I wait a few more hours before the electricity returns, I know that if I can shape my identity to be compassionate and nonviolent in all I do, I will be happy. And, I am grateful.

 

Debanjan MukherjeeMy name is Debanjan Mukherjee and I was born in Kolkata, India. As a country, India embodies cultural and religious diversity, traditions and values. I chose a career in the development sector after completing post graduate studies in 2008. Ever since childhood, I loved the company of people around me. When it came to making a career choice, I opted to work in the domain of livelihood. I began working for an NGO where I planned and executed various livelihood programs for the development of tribal communities residing in Eastern India. My professional journey so far has been full of hope and learning. I am hopeful that it will be similar in the future. Currently, I am working as an Executive in Tata Steel Rural Development Society, the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) wing of Tata Steel. 
 
My experience with CSP-AP was an enlightening one. Through the three week program at Panchgani, I was able to able to explore and better understand various facets of my identity. There is an identity that I have inherited from my family and there is also an identity into which I have been socialized. I also learned that my performance as an individual in various spheres of life, in different capacities is dependent not just on my abilities, but also on how well I am able to manage external interferences into what I do. These aspects of personal and professional transformation that CSP-AP has brought about in me are slowly sinking in. I would call my CSP-AP journey as one where I engaged into mindful thinking and action. While studying about conflict, its types, causes and consequences, I realized through the experiences of my fellow participants as to how individuals deal with conflict in different realms of life. While understanding the importance of peace building, I concluded that a peace maker should always resist the use of power, dominance and control. It is crucial that she/he makes it a point to listen to everyone's opinions, learns to respect their beliefs. This sensitivity and empathy is key to peace building. It does appear difficult in practice, but I believe that forgiveness can be one of the best tools for conflict resolution and management. 
 
Equipped with skills that CSP-AP helped me to build on, I now think about how as a development professional I can introduce a peace building component in the programs that I am working for in my country. The program was not confined to academic training. A host of other activities such as role play, football match, movie screenings followed by discussions, early morning games, field visits to nearby villages made our participation in the program more exciting and meaningful. 
 
Post CSP-AP, I feel I have become more empathetic, patient, organized, perceptive and resilient. These values will definitely be of immense importance to my work in the development arena. I am also thankful for the opportunity to interact with scholars from different countries. We are now friends who stay connected and stand by each other in testing times. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Ashok and Dr. Florina for having shared their knowledge, skills and time with us during the period of this program. I enjoyed the support and friendship of scholars from our batch and will cherish these memories for times to come. I want to acknowledge the presence and support of Mr. Hadi YazdanPanah and Mr. Pravin Nikam for facilitating and taking care of all the scholars. I could participate in CSP-AP because of the trust placed in me by the management of Tata Steel and I thank them for giving me this opportunity.
 
It is now that I realize, even more than before, the power of shared ideas and connections. I look forward to meaningful collaborations with the worldwide CSP community. This program is bound to become a medium for change in the world. Let the voices for peace resonate all over the globe! 

 

Vika Stepanets
I am Vika Stepanets from Ukraine. International peacebuilding ... what does it means? Before attending the Caux Scholars Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) in India in the winter of 2015, I was not sure if I actually understood what it takes to work for peace. Can world peace be achieved by cooperating with people around us? How can an individual like me impact international relationships? These and other questions were on my mind.
 
As soon as I reached Panchgani, I felt that I became a part of a different world. I was not aware of what exactly would be taught during the program. I did not know anything about the place where the program was organized. CSP has been organized in Switzerland for 25 years, but this was only the second time for the program in India. India as a country attracted me. It is a unique world in itself with its own laws, regulations, traditions, religions, customs and people. To me, it is not just another country, but an experience in itself.
 
I was delighted when I learned that my application was successful, and I grabbed the opportunity immediately.  Why did this program play such an important role in my life? Thanks to those three weeks at Asia Plateau learning and discovering life with fellow scholars, I look at the world around me differently. I have been able to introspect from a fresh perspective. With participants from all corners of the globe, I became conscious of the fact that our understanding of other countries can be very inaccurate if it is based on information derived from the media. It becomes easier to manipulate perceptions if we have never met the 'other'.
 
Each morning, we had the opportunity to participate in collective 'quiet time' where we analyzed how we had spent the previous day, what had been so special about it, our thoughts, dreams and reflections. It became a space that was co-created by us and for us. This practice helped me to realize the directions that I am opting for in life.
 
We attended sessions on peacebuilding, conflict analysis, conflict resolution, sustainable development, restorative justice and many others. The best part was that each scholar had an opportunity to present and speak about 'Conflict Where I Come From' (CWICF). To this date, all the presentations and perspectives forwarded by other scholars remain deeply embedded in my mind. It helped a great deal to learn about real problems that people from others countries are facing. Great value lies in learning about conflict situations from the people who have experienced it firsthand.
 
Each lecture was intended to motivate and inspire us to contribute to making our surroundings better, not just for ourselves, but also for others. And 'change', it was emphasized, had to begin from us. 
 
Ever since I have returned to my country from the CSP experience, I have wondered what will follow the intellectually stimulating time I got to spend at Panchgani. What course of action should I adopt to best realize what I learned during my stay? I desire to work in stabilizing the political, economic and social situation in my country, Ukraine. I have no specific answers to these questions. However I shall always remember the one advice which to me is of immense value. It comes from Mahatma Gandhi - "Be the change that you wish to see in the world". Such a simple piece of counsel, yet so deep, that its meaning has now dawned upon me. What I can essentially do and must do significantly, is to create peace around myself, inside of me. I must start with my own self. To reach a state of inner harmony and to be open to listening to each other is the best way to make this world more beautiful and kind.
 
The CSP-AP experience has aided an attitude change in me. It has also greatly impacted the way I operate in my professional space. I work as the editor of an online Russian magazine and the experience at CSP-AP has given me many ideas about subjects that I can write on. I have come to understand that it is really important to speak about certain issues. I am now involved in social projects and the learning at CSP-AP have raised my consciousness about my contribution to these projects. 
 
That morning when I was a witness to the rising sun at Asia Plateau hillock with all my scholar friends was when I realized that CSP-AP was not just another conference that I had come to attend. It is now an inseparable and valuable part of my life story. "
 

Cassandra Lawrence

My name is Cassandra Lawrence and I am from the United States. When I signed up for Caux Scholars-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP), I was not exactly sure what the program was about. It was only the second year of the Asia-Plateau program, and I knew the topics that were going to be covered, and I knew the invitation for personal reflection to accompany the theories of conflict transformation. I just did not know how intensive theoretical work would fit into field visits to local villages and personal reflection.

CSP-AP was very much part spiritual retreat. Regular hours of quiet time for reflection and meditation or prayer tucked into the hill country of India with half a dozen intimate garden spaces, each inviting you to breathe deeply and slowly. Walking slowly through the grounds on breaks, I frequently paused in these spaces to process the stories, theories, and hours of conversation on conflict and development. 
The other half of the program was intense study filled with conversation, questions, and lectures on over a dozen aspects of sustainable development, systems theory, conflict transformation, and more. Guest teachers and our primary faculty shared personal experiences highlighting their lived experiences. 
 
Walking into the library at AP, filled with dusty books that became our home over three weeks, I could feel some invisible force holding me back from fully engaging the work of peace building. 
Spending the first days addressing the self not only allowed each of us to acclimatize after days of travel and dozens of time zones, it addressed the first tool I bring into my work: My self. My collective experience. I was able, through guided reflections, and conversations, to connect myself with peace building and eventually with the social systems each of us exist within.
 
In the final days, we were graced with the wisdom of the director from the Gandhi Research Foundation, who described how the individual exists within seemingly vast networks of commerce. As I looked at the very clothes I was wearing, I could see the thousands of hands and faces it took to clothe and protect me. Yet I could also see how this same network had failed to clothe and protect many of the very people in that process. This did not overwhelm me as it had in years past. It enlivened me and enriched me. I wanted to hold sacred the work of thousands of people. This was how the spiritual retreat and intensive program came together as my slowed breath merged with the theories attempting to decipher the chaos of conflict.
 
Through this experience, I knew that what had been holding me back was a combined feeling of inability to affect change and a question of whether I was enough. I learned and deeply felt that just as sustainable development relies on equipping individuals and communities with self-agency and groundedness so does my individual work. Through this very network of people we have created and continue to cultivate our resources to address our challenges and I am part of those resources. 
 
My favorite quote growing up was by Gandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." I always thought I was living into that by volunteering with community groups, working with teenagers, being in a field striving to make peace a reality. What I discovered at CSP-AP was that I needed to find my own courage, my own strength, and the depth of my ability to affect change grounded in my community and my experiences. I needed to hold my own story sacred in order to hold the story of others sacred. This is the change I wish to see in the world. A world where people can deeply feel empowered to make meaningful change, from the amount and types of items we purchase, the people we vote for, through to how we speak, relate and love our fellow people on this earth." 

 

Mohammad KhalidMy name is Mohammad Khalid and I was born in Bangladesh. I consider myself a global citizen because I have so many friends from across the world. I grew up in Dhaka and now when I see the city, I realize it has changed so much over the years. As a child I was an introvert and could not make enough friends. I was used to being alone and spent most of my time with my own self in silence. My world was limited to home and school. My life changed completely when I traveled to the United Kingdom for higher studies in 2007.Whatever I had learned about different cultures, places and countries had been from my exposure to television. Later, I understood that not everything that we watch on TV is true.  What we fear about the 'other' comes from not being able to meet or understand people and yet pass judgments about them. Some of the best years of my life were spent studying in the UK. It was because I was so alienated from diversity and interaction with people from different walks of life, that I had become fearful of people who were different from me. 
 
After my return to Bangladesh in 2011, I was lucky to be able to get an opportunity to work in the development sector. Working in this sector is life changing as it not only provides me with means for livelihood but also enriches me with lifelong learning experiences and ideas. The learning process I underwent at CSP-AP 2015 was quite effective because it helped me learn more about the dynamics of peace and conflict. It may sound weird, but I had this profound realization at CSP-AP that I had the ability, capacity and freedom to achieve what I wanted in my life. This happened when all the scholars climbed to the mountain top. It was then when I realized my true potential to use my natural abilities to the best. Usually, I am not motivated enough for a workout, but that morning, I woke up early in the morning to set out on this journey with all my friends. That feeling turned out to be extremely unique, and I felt as if I had my inner voice speaking to me.
 
My current work with Mennonite Central Committee focuses on rural economic empowerment for youth and women in Bangladesh. I am a part of a team that is working to impart training related to economic awareness and business consultancy support to emerging start ups in rural areas of the country. While working for market and value chain development, I will be required to incorporate components of peace and economic justice in the market development approach at work. Terms like conflict, war, peace, reconciliation and justice are big terms. I was looking for specific and focus driven tools and techniques by which I could put these concepts to use. At CSP-AP, I was grounded into conceptual understanding and practical implementation about these ideas. Post the CSP-AP program, I found an article on 'Conflict sensitive approaches to value chain development' describing the foundations of strategy formulation in conflict sensitive areas. After reading it, all that I learned, shared, experienced and lived at CSP-AP makes sense. 
 
I realized the value of shared ideas and connections and look forward to meaningful collaborations with the larger CSP community to successfully implementing peace and economic justice in market development. Being at CSP-AP was a great source of zeal and inspiration for me. With the ongoing clash of ideologies in Bangladesh, where extremists are trying to harm those with liberal ideas, I feel extremely concerned for the situation in my country. Many innocents who have raised their voices are being killed. I shared with other scholars as part of my presentation on 'Conflict Where I Come From' and I believe that this problem cannot be resolved by arms, modern warfare or by using force but by love and intellect. I am happy to be part of the CSP network which strives for peace and reconciliation and this gives me a sense of comfort. I hope that through CSP, the voices for peace will only get much stronger and those of war, terror and violence will gradually fade away into oblivion. 

 

Esther TehI am Esther Teh - a Chinese Malaysian, an Asia-enthusiast and a global flâneur. I am born and raised in Malaysia, a melting pot of cultures and ethnicity. I grew up not tolerating diversity but accepting diversity with all honesty, living through both the benefits and challenges that would realistically exist in a diverse society.

Life has a way of giving you lessons, and I later learned that conflict between different groups of people can also exist in 'single race' countries such as Japan. I spent some time living in this homogeneous society and discovered that conflict can happen even in other forms such as differences in religion, social classes, age and even gender. 

My awareness for justice, respect and equality surfaced during my gap year in Japan. The Senior High School I attended in Osaka City emerged due to community activism that led to significant policy changes in education and social welfare for neglected communities. Today, the school's curriculum and staff is committed to provide education to students from all walks of life. I enjoyed attending classes and received so much love and help from my classmates from the low-income community, Burakumin community, minority communities i.e. Chinese- and Korean-descents, as well as learned about courage and perseverance from my physically and mentally impaired peers.  

My learning experience on conflict did not end here. I remembered visiting the villages in Japan. When the elderly Japanese came to know I was Malaysian, they would often give me a deep and long bow. This was their way of expressing remorse 'for all the things we, the Japanese, have done to your country men'. They may not have been involved in the war but was ashamed due to an event that happened in the past. Moreover, why were they apologizing to me when I was not even born when the Japanese Occupation happened in Malaya?

It is through the Caux Scholars Program - Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) that I realized that peace cannot exist without first ironing out the conflicts that is happening or one that has happened generations ago. Conflict can only be resolved when there is true understanding and acceptance of the different values and opinions that each one of us holds onto. For conflict to be resolved, it will require a conscious effort from all parties in order to work towards a more just and peaceful world. 

I learned so much from the CSP-AP, and return home with more questions than answers. The quest to continue asking questions and learning ways to achieve peace excites and encourages me to step out of my comfort zone. As such, my journey continues and I am currently pursuing to become a qualified trainer on intercultural learning to encourage people to build on their intercultural awareness and competency so that we can all understand and accept each other. A cascading effort that will hopefully inspire others to build bridges as well as start conversations and actions that promote peace. 

 

ars class graduated from the program in India. They have written letters back to the Caux Scholars community. They describe what they took away from the program and how they are applying what they learned in their lives now. We share their letters with you. - See more at: http://us.iofc.org/2015-caux-scholar-notes-india#sthash.ukBz0Mfw.dpuf
n 2015 the first Caux Scholars class graduated from the program in India. They have written letters back to the Caux Scholars community. They describe what they took away from the program and how they are applying what they learned in their lives now. We share their letters with you. - See more at: http://us.iofc.org/2015-caux-scholar-notes-india#sthash.ukBz0Mfw.dpuf
n 2015 the first Caux Scholars class graduated from the program in India. They have written letters back to the Caux Scholars community. They describe what they took away from the program and how they are applying what they learned in their lives now. We share their letters with you.
 
falseMy name is Chintan Girish Modi. I am from India, with a passion for cross-cultural friendships built around the shared experience of travel, education, art-making and inter-faith exchange. I got a liberal arts undergraduate degree with a major in English Literature, followed by an M.Phil. in English Language Education, and short courses in Peace and Conflict Studies. Subsequently, I worked with cultural organizations, schools and research institutes. I now write poetry, research body positivity, conduct workshops in peace education, work on editorial projects with publishing houses, and volunteer with an organization called Postcards for Peace. 
 
I was a part of the inaugural batch of the Caux Scholars Program at Asia Plateau in 2014. What I remember most from that experience is the opportunity to listen to two brave young women, one from Iraq and the other from Afghanistan, both of whom had to leave their countries to seek refuge in Sweden and Pakistan respectively. Their stories fill up my heart right now as I read, day after day, about the suffering of refugees from the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia heading towards Europe in search of a dignified life and better opportunities.
 
Feeling moved to plunge deeper into the heart of suffering, I have been exploring the work of Warsan Shire, a poet of Somali heritage living in London, and of Subhi Nahas, a gay activist from Syria who works in San Francisco. Their stories join the sea of stories I heard at the Caux Scholars Program, for the themes are the same: the loss of home, the threat to identity, and the desire for self-actualization.
 
The situation of refugees has been close to my heart since the time I went to Dharamsala in 2013 on a fellowship with the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and interacted closely with the Tibetan community in exile. Stories of refugees also flow into my work associated with Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein, an initiative I have been running to encourage cross-border dialogue between young people from India and Pakistan, countries stuck in a decades-long conflict over land, water sharing, and sectarian politics. They became independent countries in 1947, a year that witnessed possibly the largest ever exodus of refugees, the scars of which are still visible in the stories told by old people who were children back then.
 
I want to document the stories of these refugees, and learn how these oral narratives are passed down in families. This seems pertinent in the case of India and Pakistan on account of the growing right-wing propaganda in both countries, fanned by mainstream media as well as politicians to divide people along sectarian lines. 
 
I also want to study how young people of Indian and Pakistani origin are able to live together quite comfortably and peacefully embodying a broader South Asian identity when they are in the United States, Europe or Australia.
 
The other strand from the Caux Scholars Program that I am very keen on researching is trauma healing through community sharing, art-making, storytelling and deep listening. I want to focus particularly on the social construction of gender and sexuality, and how this produces culturally sanctioned violence against non-conforming men even in patriarchal societies. There is so much healing that needs to be done. I would like to participate in that. My dream is to learn, study and work in Berkeley, London, New York, Istanbul, Peru and Berlin. Each place has something rich to offer, aligned with my special intersection of interests. 
 
 
falseI am Angel de la Flor from the Philippines. I earned a BA in Consular and Diplomatic Affairs in Manila. Back in my university, the sole goal was to become a part of the prestigious Philippine Foreign Service in the future. However, as I had been continuously exposed to different global and local issues from my academic courses, the reality at the grassroots personally became a greater burden for me. I devoted my time in pursuing programs and internships that concern with youth empowerment, human rights and education.  
 
Few months ago, before the Caux Scholar's Program-Asia Plateau (CSP-AP), I thought I already understood the world enough since I had been to various cross-cultural events and leadership trainings. I am very humbled as to how IofC's CSP-AP has uniquely instilled a new perspective that did not only teach my mind, but touched my heart, even changed my life. To me, living there for three weeks with my 16 co-scholars had been a microcosm of a life that we aspire-- a life of learning, doing and loving. We flipped and wrote every page carefully; shared the best piece of one's self to others, served relentlessly, respected and embraced each other's differences, trusted & learned from one another, and gave whatever the experience entailed.
 
"Hope is not born on mountain tops, but in valleys when you're looking to the heights and peaks that you're yet to climb." - Unknown
 
Shortly after I went home from the AP, our country had been in serious turmoil and shock after 44 policemen died in a clash against our Muslim brothers in Mindanao after some quite progressive peace talks and negotiations. It became the most tempting time foreveryone to succumb to biases, to emotions and consider others as enemies, to condone injustice and hatred, to applaud all-out war and violence in the name of revenge, to judge others by their appearances or beliefs. I knew because prior to CSP-AP, I used to be a part of 'everyone'. In CSP-AP, I am glad I learned things the Peace Builder's way, where we donate selflessness through our empathy more than just our intellect, our acceptance of diversity more than superiority, our open-mindedness more than our judgment, our reason more than our rants, our pure intentions more than just public opinion, our hopes more than our apathy, our forgiveness more than or fears and love more than our anger.
 
After CSP-AP, I vowed to share the same perspective to my community, particularly to my fellow youth. Now I resumed working for the Italian Development Cooperation Office in Manila, and alongside I have been writing e-mails and letters to Muslim writers, bloggers and young professionals to explore possible collaborations and initiatives. I consulted with my former Professor and mentors who specialize on conflict resolution and together we are eyeing to conduct seminars and talk to educate the youth on the issue. After all, from CSP, we went down the mountain, no longer a spectator, no longer an audience of a world that calls us to play our part, fill our roles and fight the battles in the name of Peace. 
 
 
falseI am Sharmila Dhungana from Nepal. In December 2014, I went to Asia Plateau as a naïve individual, unaware of a lot of things about myself and about the energy that resides in me to bring a change in myself and in the society.  Three weeks after my experience at Caux Scholars Program - Asia Plateau (CSP-AP), I found myself coming out as a much more groomed and mature person. One of the essential things CSP-AP taught me was the importance of taking quiet times to myself every day.  It led to me ask questions that I never asked before. What relationships do I need to mend in my life? Who do I want to care for today? How do I make today a productive day? What is my purpose in life?  The process of finding answers to such questions was an interesting journey for me; it strengthened my awareness about my own self and pushed me to give thoughts to areas I would have missed otherwise. 
 
The energy of Asia Plateau is such that it touches your heart and influences you to move on with higher motivation and drive. After returning back, I felt a greater amount of love in my heart, for myself and for those around me. 
 
My experience at CSP-AP especially helped me this past spring when I went to Korea for my exchange semester. In addition to the thrill of being in a new country, I was also very overwhelmed by all the newness of being in a foreign land. I didn't know many people and the city felt strange and intimidating at the beginning. I got quite insecure about myself and had moments of feeling like an alien who didn't belong there.  
After taking quiet times and spending a lot of time on self reflection, I came to a realization that my feelings didn't depend as much on the outer surrounding as on my relationship with my inner self.  I realized that for me to be able to enjoy my surroundings, I first have to get in tune with my heart and my inner self.  Chaos and uncertainly got a chance to creep in only when my relationship with myself was weak enough to give space to such feelings.  
 
It was when I put in extra efforts on being in harmony with my heart. The practice Caux Scholars Program - Asia Plateau had provided me with listening to the inner voice helped me develop a lot of security and confidence within myself. I then realized that the surrounding was there for me to discover, explore, and learn from, and not to get intimidated of. 
 
Once I opened my heart and started focusing on the positive, I was surprised at how enriching my stay there proved to be. Be it talking long walks in the city, discovering a new dish, or meeting a new person, I engrossed in the beauty of what everything around me had to offer. Everything felt like an open book and I learned as much as possible about the world through the people around, the academics, and through all the new experiences I was having.  Looking back to the four months in Korea, I undoubtedly term it as one of the best learning experiences of my life and continue to cherish the meaningful friendship I developed over time, with myself and with people that I met. 
 
A big share of my experience goes to CSP-AP because it taught me the art of getting to know myself better and being there for myself at all times. It has instilled in me the message that the answers to all questions and solutions to problems lie within myself. 
 
It taught me to open my heart and embrace the beauty that lies in everything around me.  I am confident that this seed that Caux Scholars Program -Asia Plateau has sown in me will help me reap fruits when dealing with whatever challenges or difficulties I come across in the future.  
 
 
falseI am Olive Lomokol from Uganda. I hold an MA in Sustainable Peace and Conflict Management and Bachelor of Ethics and Development Studies from Uganda Martyrs University. I am a young scholar, an independent thinker, a big dreamer, and a peace lover. Prior to CSP-AP, the crisis of the 'conflict where I come from' had a direct impact on my relationship with the ethnic communities in my region of Karamoja-Uganda. Throughout my post graduate studies, I studied with a gentleman who happened to come from an ethnic group considered to be our traditional enemies. Fear and suspicion complicated my interactions and concentration in class, and my lecture were terrible.
 
CSP-AP program gave me the opportunity to get out of myself and see the world with a different eye; an eye for reconciliation. I realized the need for compromise and mercy. Yet it is rather impossible to hope for solutions to the earth's setback, I learned that it is important to go beyond self-interest, hatred and greed to solve humanity's tribulations. It was eye-opening to recognize that conflict transformation and peace building require that interpersonal and relational conflicts are taken care of first before dealing with the structural and societal conflicts, and sincere attempts at reconciliation and rebuilding of trust and healthy relationships are vital. Moreover, the space gave me a hunger for exploring more ideas and trying to clarify my own thoughts. I cultured that we need to enlighten our own stories, our own take on things, and our own histories. Besides, I was able to recognize that no one is born hating another person, people learn to hate, and they can be trained to love; love comes more naturally from the human heart (Nelson Mandela). Just a couple of months ago, I got a one year consultancy contract with an NGO working for peace-building through theatre and sports, and it also happened that I with the other gentleman ('traditional enemy') were appointed to work closely in the same office as co-associates. Had it not been for the lessons learnt at CSP-AP, it would still be harder for me to team up with this gentleman. 
 
Furthermore, my motivation from CSP-AP stems from the inner voice listening. It was a new beginning for me to learn, relearn and unlearn from the approaches to conflict transformation and peace building. Until now, I believe that inner voice listening starts with moral correctness and freedom from the bondage of lust, anger and hate, selfishness, ego and pride. This has helped me grow to listen to the voice in my heart, and make reflections in my day today living and seek direction in my life. It reflects the fact that we cannot be in a better position to solve societies' problems and build peace without first of all dealing with our individual day today issues. For as long as I can remember, I've known what I want to do in life. Justice and equality has always been a passion of mine, and peace building activities have interested me for a very long time. Dedicating my life to advocacy for equality and inclusion is very appealing. Subsequently, I discovered that whenever you are in doubt take a pose, don't rush, obey and listen to the direction of the inner voice with an open mind and heart.
 
Personally since my involvement with CSP-AP, and through the daily practice of inner voice listening, my doors opened, I begun to see the light. I acknowledge the voice is still small within me; and it says: Oliveeee!!! Hold on, Relax; Move on; Go now. It is little but loud enough to guide and re-shape my thinking and actions, and influence my decisions. However, it is also important that the inner voice be tested with logical reasoning and soothed in the heart.
 
Moreover, during the conference, I was overwhelmed by the ratio of female scholars to male scholars (12:5 respectively), I got a feeling that if we stop viewing women as victims or as a burden and start to empower them to be independent, resilient and creative and value their efforts, a whole new world of opportunity will open up for sustainable peace in the world. I began to reflect on Carol Gilligan when she said; "the love and peace every human society enjoys begins with the love and peace a mother gives to her Child".
 
In the nearby future (2016/2017), I plan to enroll for a doctoral study in "Peace Governance" for the African countries, specific to the East African Community. Urgently, I hope to attend a fellowship on issues related to inclusive governance, human security, youth and women, and peace-building, and/or do internship with a UN organization. To conclude, I urge my fellow alumni and the next CSP-AP class to be selective in your battles, sometimes peace is better than being right.

- See more at: http://us.iofc.org/2015-caux-scholar-notes-india#sthash.ukBz0Mfw.dpuf